The UK’s Brexit-hit car industry is to set for a major boost, with hundreds of jobs to be created to build a new 4×4 in a town due to be abandoned by Ford.
Ineos Automotive, which is part of the business empire of billionaire chemicals tycoon Sir Jim Ratcliffe, has confirmed it is taking factory premises in Bridgend, South Wales.
The site is next to Ford’s engine plant which is set to close – with the loss of 1,700 jobs – by September next year.
Around 200 jobs will be created initially by Ineos, but that is expected to increase to 500 when the vehicle is in full production.
The vehicle will be named Grenadier, after a London pub where the idea was first discussed years ago.
Groundwork has already started on the £600m project and production will begin in 2021.
It was hoped that 25,000 Grenadiers could be built annually.
Dirk Heilmann, chief executive of Ineos Automotive, said: “We are progressing well with the design and engineering work as well as our marketing and distribution plans.”
The decision to assemble the vehicle in Bridgend represents a boost for the town, which saw off competition from four other UK sites and others across Europe.
Ineos Automotive is part of Sir Jim Ratcliffe’s business empire
It offers Ineos the opportunity to tap into the expertise in the town left behind by Ford, which denied suggestions it was closing its engine plant as a result of Brexit.
Ford argued its ageing plant was becoming “economically unsustainable” in the world’s drive for electric vehicles.
Ineos said that while it would prefer a Brexit deal to help smooth its flow of parts from Europe, it was prepared to “take it on the chin” if the UK was to leave the EU without a deal.
It said there was plenty of time ahead to ensure engines from a BMW plant in Austria and the main chassis, which is due to be shipped from Portugal, did not encounter potential problems.
One executive said: “We obviously hope there is a deal, but we are two years away from the start of production so there will be a lot of water under the bridge before then.”
Ford’s engine plant near Bridgend is set to close, with the loss of 1,700 jobs
Daily Week News revealed in February that Sir Jim met then-prime minister Theresa May for talks covering the project in the hope of gaining government support, months after criticism of his personal tax affairs following his plans to relocate to Monaco.
Sir Jim said: “The decision to build in the UK is a significant expression of confidence in British manufacturing which has always been at the heart of what Ineos stands for.”
Ineos first announced plans for an off-roader of its own design after Jaguar Land Rover abandoned the Defender in 2016, only for the firm to then show off a new model earlier this month.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: “Today’s announcement from Ineos will deliver hundreds of new jobs in Bridgend and is a vote of confidence in UK expertise, making sure we keep our status as a pioneer in new vehicle technologies.
“Backing our automotive sector is a key priority for this Government, and we’re working closely with industry to ensure it stays competitive and to put the UK at the forefront of the global drive to zero emissions.”